I think it's fair to say that, in life, we are all searching for happiness in one form or another. Unfortunately, a lot of the time we fall short and are instead left mindlessly chasing dangling carrots, desperately seeking something that is merely just an illusion.
As humans, we constantly look for joy derived from material, impermanent and illusory: objects, people, events and situations. This is not a major problem in and of itself though, we can't help it, we do live in a material world. The problem exists in the thinking that this feeling will last forever. That is where the fault lies.
I often take stock of the world around me and find it hard to overlook the fact that people are always trying to get somewhere, to obtain something, to be someone. Never happy or content, always searching, needing, craving and wanting. At times I even take a look at the man in the mirror and I catch myself desperately striving to move forward, budgeting for the future, planning for years ahead. Writing up a list of where I want to go, what I want to own and who I want to be. Then I pause, take a step back and I ask myself: "what the hell am I doing?", "where the hell am I going?", "what the hell am I actually looking for?"
It seems as though the very moment we reach the end of one race, we immediately want to start another one, why? Because we think that finishing it will finally fulfill us. A cycle that can repeat indefinitely. A common yet dangerous aspect of reality, one which, if we are completely oblivious to, can lead us to live our whole life simply as a means to an end.
There is nothing intrinsically wrong with having clearly defined goals and objectives. There is nothing wrong with striving to live a life that has some sort of direction. The problem lies in the flawed thinking that after achieving the things we set out for ourselves, we will be internally and eternally fulfilled. Unfortunately, this is not and will never be the case. The more we search for happiness and fulfilment external from ourselves, the more we amplify our present-day dissatisfaction and deficiency. The more we convey how much we want and need, the greater we widen the void that we perceive exists deep within us.
It is only recently that I realized that it all lies within the journey and not solely within the result. The result only ever lasts for so long, yet the journey is truly all we ever have.
Recently, while hanging out with a group of friends, I had a brief rush of self-awareness. In that moment upon analyzing my external surroundings as well as my internal state of being, I sincerely felt that I was happy. At that moment in time I had no worries, woes, issues, anxieties, needs, wants, problems or desires. I was just enjoying where I was, who I was with and what I was doing. No fantasies of where I wanted to be or plans of where I wanted to go. I was utterly and completely lost in the now, in the moment, in the journey.
What I realized and experienced in that very moment is that - as cliche as it may sound - the present moment; what we have, who we have and where we are, is the only real place that we can ever find and feel true happiness.
NB: I initially wrote this in 2012 while in university. I was 20 back then. As I read these words 9 years later, 6 months away from the big three-zero (pronounced "old as fuck") I feel that this advice could not be any more relevant. I definitely still find myself searching, planning, hoping and crafting but I try my best to reign in some much needed awareness once in a while, in order to keep me grounded (and sane). Without that it's easy to fall into the happiness trap.
A book that has been extremely pivotal in my journey thus far is The Power of Now. Check it out if you ever get the chance.
If my life ramblings interest you then keep an eye out for my upcoming book: Philosophical Suicide. In it I explore, amongst other things, my never-ending search for meaning, my continuous journey of self-exploration and my personal struggles with love, life, work and everything in between. To be released in November 2021. Sign up here for updates.